Keynote (for iPhone) review

Apple's Keynote mobile app contains a remarkably long list of features—more than any other presentation mobile app we've seen. It's not a three-for-one office app as some competitors offer, but it's more comprehensive in mimicking the desktop experience for creating, editing, and viewing presentations.
Photo of Keynote (for iPhone)
9.99

Not long after Apple released iOS 7, the company updated iWork, its set of three office apps: Pages for word processing, Numbers for spreadsheets, and Keynote for presentations. The updated mobile versions of these apps for the iPhone show huge improvements in usability and design. I was stunned at how rich they are in features. Behind the scenes, Apple virtually started from scratch to build a unified file format so that documents created in or edited with the mobile apps are the exact same files when you open them on your desktop or laptop Mac, and vice versa. This review focuses on the Keynote iPhone app (free to $9.99), truly impressive presentation software, considering it runs on a device that fits in your pocket.

Presenting Keynote
The Keynote iPhone app lets you create presentations from scratch or from one of several dozen included templates. You can also edit existing presentations you’ve saved to an iCloud account or to another app, though this last method requires that you start in the other app rather than in Keynote.

The app has an incredibly straightforward and navigable interface. Tools and features pop up at every appropriate turn, and they’re hidden when not needed. Multi-touch gestures work as you’d expect, although some take a little practice to master. For example, I tried to pinch-zoom while testing the app, and accidentally rotated a text box. Straightening it out took little more than a reverse twist (or a press of an ever-present “undo” button). Guidelines appear when you drag objects around the page to help you align or center your work.

The sheer number of features in Keynote boggles the mind. You can adjust practically everything, from the color of a border to the delay on a transition. I expect this attention to detail in a desktop app, but I don’t at all expect it in mobile apps that can be slowed down by excessive features. Keynote responds in real time. You can preview anything before implementing it, and if you make a mistake, multiple undos are supported.

Videos embedded into a presentation played back without a hitch. A new animated graphs-and-charts feature (which, for example, can play through a long table of information showing changes one month at a time) are equally zippy. Tap a text box, photo, object—you name it—and a menu of options becomes available through a small wrench icon. Dive into those options, and more sub-menus appear. Every time I opened this app to test one feature,  I discovered six more to try.  

Keynote iPhone App Price
Each iWork mobile app costs $9.99, unless you recently purchased and activated a new Apple mobile device, in which case all three are free (as are the iLife apps, iPhoto, iMovie, and GarageBand). It’s a toss-up whether you want to pay $30 now for all three apps or just wait until your next iPhone upgrade, as there are fine alternatives on the market. None of them do as much as Keynote, but some do enough and are a bargain.

Polaris Office ($12.99) is a shining example. This three-for-one app bundles word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations into one download for a very reasonable one-time fee. It also integrates easily with a Dropbox or Box account, making file-syncing effortless. Polaris only takes up just 46.7MB, while Keynote is 463MB!

The next best alternative is probably Microsoft’s Office Mobile for 365 Subscribers, which requires an Office 365 account, and those start at $99 per year. Office Mobile saves your files to SkyDrive, or SharePoint or Office 365 SharePoint, which is fine if that’s what you use, but it’s a show-stopper for anyone who doesn’t. Sure, you can share files by email from Office Mobile, but you can’t even open files in another app. You need the SkyDrive app for that—and who needs a second app just to open documents in yet another app?

Apple could have much better integration with other storage solutions, but at least it offers it. You can open files in another app, such as the Dropbox iPhone app, and save the file there. And you can change the file format when you do so, to a Microsoft-compatible one, like .docx or .ppt. It takes half a dozen clicks to save your files to another app with Keynote, but it can be done.

Business Traveler’s Insurance
Apple’s Keynote app for iPhone contains a remarkably long list of features—more than any other presentation mobile app we’ve seen. With a tiny bit of practice, Keynote’s tools and features are quite easy to use, and more importantly, enable anyone to create superb, interactive, and substantial presentations on an iPhone. Any business traveler would be thrilled to have Keynote in her pocket, a huge reason it’s an Editors’ Choice app. I’d certainly travel with great confidence knowing I can open a file created on my iPhone, on my Mac desktop, or in the iCloud version of the Keynote app, and see exactly the same results. Exporting to Microsoft Office (.ppt) or even to PDF is also possible and a reassurance, though some formatting could go haywire with the former.

Keynote isn’t part of a three-for-one office app like those offered by competitors, but it is definitely more comprehensive in mimicking the desktop experience for creating, editing, and viewing presentations. If you have a new iPhone, you should explore all it has to offer. Those with older iPhones who need to shell out $9.99 will still find it a good buy if they work extensively on presentations. If you can live with a more scaled-back presentation app, buy the $12.99, three-for-one app Polaris Office, which is also an Editors’ Choice for its wonderful interface and great interoperability with Dropbox and Box.


Verdict
Apple's Keynote mobile app contains a remarkably long list of features—more than any other presentation mobile app we've seen. It's not a three-for-one office app as some competitors offer, but it's more comprehensive in mimicking the desktop experience for creating, editing, and viewing presentations.
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc